I don’t think I’ve ever read the whole way through Les Misérables—once I reach a certain point, usually before everyone dies, I put the book down and call it quits. The musical is sad enough for me; I don’t need more sadness. That said, every once in a while I do check what kind of fanfiction there is out there, because hey, if any canon has death, fanfiction will fix that right up. That’s how I came across A Reflection of Starlight by AutumnGracy. Taking place, sadly, after the barricade, the fic starts with Javert jumping off a bridge. This time around, though, Valjean witnesses his fall into the Seine and rescues him.
Trigger warning for discussions of suicide follow.
Coughing weakly, he rose to his hands and knees.
Bewildered, he tried to remember what could have brought him to this state.
Vaguely he recalled letting himself fall into the black void of the river, the waters sucking him down and filling his lungs. This accounted for the sogginess of his clothes. But he could not comprehend how he’d come to be on dry land again, how it was that one could be swallowed up in that particular part of the Seine and emerge a yet living man.
Javert managed to prop himself up into a sitting position, supported only by the rough brick of the alley wall behind him.
How had he come to be here? How was it that he, against his own will, was still alive?
Slowly he turned to his left.
Sitting only a few feet away, slumped against the alley wall and clad in the soiled uniform of a National Guardsman (minus the tailcoat and shako), was a gut-wrenchingly familiar face.
Valjean’s head was hung, his eyes closed, lips slightly parted, breathing softly—he had, it appeared, fallen asleep.
And he, too, was sopping wet.
The implication of this hit Javert like a crash of thunder, shattering something in his breast.
A Reflection of Starlight is a slow-building fic between Javert and Valjean,
where the two fall in love while Valjean helps Javert through his depression. Javert finds himself torn between doing his duty and turning Valjean in, or doing what’s right and letting him go. Most of all, Javert wants nothing to do with Valjean and feels that being indebted to the man in anyway is the worst thing that could ever happen to him. One of the things that I really like about this fic is that it doesn’t brush Javert’s suicide attempt off as nothing more than a means to start a relationship, like I have seen many other fics do. Instead, the story continues to explore why Javert jumped in the first place, and that never really goes away. His attempted suicide hangs over him throughout the entire fic and influences the way Valjean treats and interacts with him. The relationship is secondary and doesn’t even show up for a good long while.
Another reason I like this fic is that it explores two characters the original source material presented as religious extremes. Valjean is someone who always trusts in God and prays to Him for help when it looks like there’s no right way forward. The best example of this takes place when an innocent man is sentenced in his place. If Valjean turns himself in, hundreds of factory workers will lose their jobs. But if he says nothing, an innocent man gets sentenced to slavery. There is no actual right way out of this situation, but Valjean always pushes on through and continues on. Javert, on the other hand, rigidly believes that the law is the word of God, and when Valjean’s actions shatter that worldview, he can’t handle it. He’s now in a similar situation, turn Valjean in or let him go. Instead, Javert attempts suicide, and unlike the fic, in canon, he succeeds.
In order for A Relection of Starlight to explore Javert’s depression, it also has to explore his beliefs about morality and justice and how warped they are. I’m quite certain that Javert is a person I would absolutely detest if I met him in real life—let’s face it, he’s an asshole—but what the story has to say about him is interesting and compelling to me as someone who also struggles sometimes with my faith.
Right now, the fic is fifty-one chapters and over 270k words long, meaning that it’s about half the length of the original source material. A Reflection of Starlight isn’t done yet, but at the length it’s currently at, it can take up a good portion of your time regardless if you want to give it a shot. Be sure to check it out here on AO3.